July 20th, 2012 | People's Daily Relations with Africa serve as touchstone of China’s rise
The Sino-African relationship in the new era is a touchstone of China’s rise into a global power which also refines China’s progressiveness, said Wang Yizhou, deputy dean of school of International Relations at Beijing University in an interview with people’s Daily as the 5th Ministerial Conference of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) is held from July 19 to July 20.
The Sino-African ties have been greatly strengthened in recent years, which is most notable in commercial exchanges. According to statistics, the Sino-African trade skyrocketed to 166.3 billion U.S. dollars in 2011 from 55.5 billion U.S. dollars in 2011, making China Africa’s biggest trade partner for three straight years. China’s direct investment in Africa has increased to more than 14.7 billion U.S. dollars, and China has established more than 2,000 enterprises in Africa, Wang said.
“What impressed African countries most is the power of China as a rising economy. The foreign aid Chinese teams also created many miracles, showing the diligence and wisdom of Chinese people and earning a good reputation,“ Wang pointed.
But in Africa many people still believe that China is implementing “neo colonialism”, Wang said. China lacks attractiveness in culture, politics and society. Though the governments of African countries welcome China’s investment, criticism is also heard from African intellectuals and media.
Why does this happen? Wang Yizhou explained that the situation in Africa in changing. We noticed that the modern consciousness and cultural self-confidence of African countries are becoming stronger. Africa hopes that it will not be constrained neither by Western powers nor rising powers. So China should not only attach importance to the development of commercial ties when making exchanges with Africa. In the new era we need to adapt ourselves to the new circumstance and conduct in line with the manner of the new generation.
In order to develop Sino-African ties in the new era, China needs to give full play to its strengths and to make up for its weaknesses. It needs to shape its national image with comprehensive social development besides the increasing commercial exchanges; it needs to strengthen its aid in military and in soft power such as culture and society, and more social forces should be involved in this action.
The United States, for example, dispatch about 4,000 to 5,000 young volunteers to Africa and other countries every year. Since 1962 the United States has dispatched more than 240,000 volunteers. Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) has also dispatched about 40,000 people in the previous years. China has sent volunteers abroad too, but the amount is quiet few which is not in proportion to China’s national strength, population and its world’s second-biggest GDP.
“Providing loans and investing in foreign countries are the advantages of China in developing relations with Africa. But we also can organize young volunteers to go abroad,” Wang said, “That will be very helpful in cultivating the international consciousness and perspective of the young people.”
The new type of Sino-African ties is far beyond political and commercial exchanges. In the new era we should develop full-scale multi-perspective and multi-layered Sino-African ties. We should realize that the development of Africa can also help and improve ourselves. China needs to have a strong sense of necessity, Wang said.
By Yang Mu
Edited and Translated by Yao Chun